This blog post was written by NCTE members Erika Dawes and Mary Ann Cappiello.
For the first time this fall, NCTE is sponsoring a Mock Huck and Mock Orbis Pictus Award process in the months that lead up to our annual announcement of the winner, honor, and recommended titles at the Books for Children Luncheon at the NCTE Conference.
What do we hope happens?
First and foremost, we’re excited to get PreK–8 students and their teachers reading lots of new fiction and nonfiction this fall.
We’re excited that teachers are reaching out to their school and local public librarians, so that each can find new ways to work together to create or sustain a book culture in their community. We know that read-alouds have the powerful potential to create community at the beginning of the school year, and we are hopeful that all participants and their students, as they read and consider new books together, feel a part of the larger NCTE children’s book community.
We’re aware that each award has specific criteria that are unique to our role as educators.
The Charlotte Huck Award® for Outstanding Fiction for Children recognizes the potential that fiction has to inspire children to see themselves and their world in new ways.
Authors and illustrators employ words and images to immerse readers in the lives of complex characters and thought-provoking settings. Powerful fiction can offer children affirmation of their own experiences and opportunities to consider experiences that may be very different from their own.
As students engage with a kid-friendly version of the criteria for the Charlotte Huck award, rich conversations emerge in the classroom. When children consider the emotional and intellectual impact of imagined worlds that are contemporary, historical, or fantastical, they discuss themes, character, and contexts. Well-written fiction prompts reflection on the kind of people we want to be and the kind of world that we want to live in.
The kid-friendly criteria of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award® are a great way to introduce elementary and middle school students to the genre of nonfiction.
It’s one thing to read a book for pleasure because you love the topic. It’s another thing to read a book because it’s required reading in science or social studies. But what does it mean when we ask young people to evaluate nonfiction, not “use it?” What new light is shed on the organizational and stylistic possibilities? How do students’ understandings of the research, writing, and illustrating processes change when they explore the back matter of well-written and well-researched work of nonfiction? How does their thinking change when they read one book with back matter and one book without?
When they are using the Orbis Pictus criteria for accuracy, they may think twice about books without back matter, and they may approach their own research in a different way. Some students may be surprised that we look for books in which the author shows enthusiasm for the subject, that we expect the writing to be interesting.
We don’t expect authors of nonfiction to be wholly invisible. When we ask students to evaluate books in this way, they begin to see books as fluid, not fixed, as a series of decisions made by author, illustrator, editor, and book designer—decisions that they, too, can make about their own writing.
The Orbis PIctus Award also asks that books be “useful in classroom teaching”and that they should “encourage thinking and more reading . . . share interesting and timely subject matter.”
We hope that by having teachers and students participate in the Mock Orbis Pictus process, teachers and students alike will grow even more comfortable including a wide range of nonfiction in the classroom for a wide range of curricular purposes.
We live in challenging times, filled with sound bites, strong rhetoric, and negative Tweets. We hope that teachers participating in the Mock Huck and Mock Orbis Pictus awards will immerse their students in books that matter.
Whether the books are set in real or fictional worlds, we hope you read books . . .
- that model courage and conviction,
- that demonstrate communities coming together to take care of those in need,
- that model creativity and divergent thinking,
- that reveal the extraordinary ways that our beautiful planet works,
- that ask the big questions, and
- that allow us to reconsider our own power and potential.
We know that NCTE members are educators who understand the important and multifaceted role of diverse children’s, middle grade, and young adult books in the classroom and in the reading lives of young people.
Join us this fall for our first Mock Huck and Mock Orbis Pictus. Sign up to participate at https://ncte.org/ncte-mock-book-awards/ and contribute to the ongoing conversation on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags #NCTEMockHuck and #NCTEMockOrbis.
As committee chairs of Huck and Orbis Pictus, we can’t wait to see what you read!
Erika Dawes and Mary Ann Cappiello, both of Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, are chairs, respectively of the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Committee and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Committee.